This is an early page that treated on this issue. But now (from 14 September 2004) there is another page that might it be better to read, which discusses the philosophical implications of the idea of Creation as found in the Creation-Fall-Redemption ground motive. This page starts from Vollenhoven's specifically Christian questions but is of more general philosophical interest.
In "Isagoge Philosophiae" by Dirk Vollenhoven p. 10 Q.IIIT we find the following helpful outline of an argument [arrived in an email list, and I suspect it has errors in translation or spelling]:
III. The third question which we as Christian revelation believers ask Scripture is: 'What is the boundary which marks off that which is created from the Creator?' One should understand 'boundary' as something such that one can say 'everything which stands on that side of this boundary is God and everything which lays on this side is created.'[End of quote from Vollenhoven; I have added comments and notes in [square brackets]. AB.]
To acknowledge the law as boundary between God and cosmos is a requirement of the fear of the Lord, which is of significance for much more than exclusively for science, but which also may not be lacking in it either if science is not to lead to [original had: leade] putative or pseudo-knowledge, that is to say, to error rather than to genuine knowledge.
- A. In this way the relationship, and not the similarity and difference, of God and cosmos is brought to bear.
- Remark 1: This means that we reject the following:
- a. The attempt to understand the basic relationship between God and cosmos purely in terms of their similarity. This happens when God and cosmos are seen as manisfestions or phases of a 'being' or 'process': in this way God as well as cosmos are subordinated e.g. [as] coincidentia oppositorum (Nicolas of Cusa and Hegel) to something that stands above both and hence are coordinated with one another.
- b. The attempt to understand the basic relationship between God and cosmos purely in terms of their difference. This happens when people set God and cosmos over against each other as the divine and the nondivine and consequently call God the 'wholly Other' (K. Barth); in this way this relation becomes a contradictory one.
- Remark 2. Carefully note the circumscription of this boundary in the question asked. This boundary does mark off that which is created from God, but not God from that which is created. To accept the latter position would be incompatible with the acknowledgement of the infinity of God who is always and everywhere acting in and upon - and certainly not only from within - the cosmos.
- Remark 3: 'Boundary' should not be conceived of in spatial terms; for spatiality itself belongs to that which created. Hence a spatial boundary is always a boundary within the created and never that between Creator and creation. [Therefore the childhood idea that 'heaven' is a separate place from 'earth' is false. AB.]
- B. Now this boundary is the law of God which is continuously posited by God for that which is created.For all who sovereignly give laws to the cosmos and maintain them is God; on the other hand, all that which is created is subject to his laws. And it continues to be subjected because also God's activity in the cosmos since the creation is never coupled with a violation of the law. Accordingly it is impossible to mention anything divine which stands under the law or anything that is created which stands above the law.
- Remark 4: This means we reject the following:
- a. Realism (in the classical sense) with its doctrine that the law also holds for God: God is subjected to the law, although he is bound by virtue of his faithfulness to maintain His law once put to the creature. We find the combination of these thoughts already in Calvin: "Dues legibus solutas est" and "Dues non ex lex est".
- b. The attempt to understand the basic relation between God and the cosmos as that between whole and part. This viewpoint allows for a number of different elaborations.
- 1. When consistently applied, there are two conceptions possible [which are expounded clearly in Clouser (1991)]:
- - God is the whole, the cosmos a part - for example, that part of Him which is manisfest: pantheism. [Clouser labels this the Eastern view.]
- = The cosmos is the whole, God a part of the cosmos - for example, the resultant of the operation of many cosmic forces or else the result of pistical representation: pancosmism. [Clouser labels this the Pagan view.]
- 2. [I don't know what text goes here; maybe none. AB.]
- - A part of the world is divine: partial theism.
- = A part of God is cosmic: partial cosmism.
- Remark 5: To speak of the law as boundary between God and cosmos does not purport to indicate completely the difference between God and cosmos; "difference", as is denoted by word pairs like Creator and creature, infinite and finite, is something other than "boundary".
- Remark 6: The law's mode of being is that of "hold for". the law, therefore, always stands above and outside that which it holds -a remark directed against objectivism and subjectivism. Law is therefore not "regularity" etc.: processes subjected to the law are regular or irregular.
- Remark 7: The law of God holds for everything and therefore brooks no exceptions at all. This also holds for the normative laws: the fact that these can be transgressed does not mean at all that they are thereby also abolished.
But I have received the following response from David Ferguson, and he tells me that most of it is from Spiers:
In examining the various philosophical systems we must ask, do they recognize the boundary between God and the Cosmos and take fully into account the consequences of this recognition? All non-biblical philosophy can be classified according to the answer that it gives to this primary question. Vollenhoven developed the following system of classification.
There are philosophers who deny and philosophers who affirm the existence of a boundary between God and the cosmos. We call the former monists and the latter dualists. This main division does not tell us all we wish to know. It makes a difference whether or not a monist denies the existence of god or the existence of the world. If he does not wish to deny either the world or God, then as a monist he must either place God in the cosmos or resolve the cosmos in God. Consequently there are four kinds of monism.
Dualists also differ among themselves. Anyone who does not honour the boundary as God has prescribed it in His Word either places the line of demarcation too high or too low. In the first instance a part of the Divine Being is ascribed to the world of created things, and in the second something created is deified. There are as clearly appears, two types of dualism: partial cosmism which places a part of the Divine Being in the Cosmos, (e.g., Modernism which denies the Deity of the Son and the Holy Spirit), and partial theism which places a portion of the cosmos in God by drawing the boundary line between God and the cosmos through the cosmos. The cosmos is divided into a higher and a lower sphere. The higher part is elevated above the lower one and is deified. God must share His Sovereignty with a portion of the creation. Partial theism has found adherents among Christians in all ages. The Roman Catholic doctrine of the worship of Mary (Mariolatry) , and of transubstantiation (the change of essence of the bread and wine in communion), and the Lutheran doctrine of the deification of Christs human nature during His ascension are partial theistic, as is the idea that the soul of man is a divine element which is higher than the body. The idea that reason belongs to a higher order, since God is absolute reason, is also an expression of partial theism. And the error of antinomianism which places the Christian above the law is a further example of its influence.
All of these trends and theories do not do justice to the sovereignty of God, who is the Only and Real One. Christian philosophy may not unite with any such view. It must for the sake of truth avoid synthesis and bear in mind the antithesis between Christian and non-Christian thought.
The Christian philosophy does not wish to define its viewpoint as theism. The conception, that theism is the correct middle way between pantheism and deism, is very well known, but there are serious objections to this traditional formula.
The terms deism and pantheism are not Sufficient to describe the many views which do not recognize or which incorrectly comprehend the boundary between God and the cosmos. Moreover truth is not achieved by steering a middle course between two errors. And from a philosophical point of view the term theism is inadequate to indicate the philosophical conception which is based on the Bible.
The above is extracted from Introduction to Christian Philosophy by Spiers.
It occurred to me on reading your piece on Vollenhoven that Frank Tipplers Omega Point Theory would be a good example of pan-cosmism. According to Tippler information technology will progress to the point that it transcends space and time and takes on the role of God, even going so far as to create the universe by emanation. Therefore in order to bring God into existence and guarantee eternal life for ourselves we have to put loads of money into building particle accelerators. This might sound wacky but attendees at Omega point conferences have included Anthony Flew and Wolfhart Pannenberg who developed an Omega Point Christology.
Copyright (c) 2004 Andrew Basden and also David Ferguson and Spiers. But you may use this material subject to conditions.
Number of visitors to these pages: . Written on the Amiga with Protext.
Created: 23 October 1999. Last updated: 7 February 2001 copyright, email. 14 April 2003 added Ferguson's response. 12 August 2004 .nav and small changes in response to David Ferguson. 14 September 2004 link to creator.html.